Swedish NGO urges probe of Gripen jet sale to Thailand

Swedish NGO urges probe of Gripen jet sale to Thailand

Pilots from Wing 7 fly a Gripen jet over the Andaman Sea on June 25, 2011. (Photo by Surapol Promsaka Na Sakolnakorn)
Pilots from Wing 7 fly a Gripen jet over the Andaman Sea on June 25, 2011. (Photo by Surapol Promsaka Na Sakolnakorn)

A Swedish non-governmental organisation has filed a complaint with police there seeking an investigation of the allegedly corrupt sale of Gripen fighter jets to Thailand.

The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society lodged its complaint on Oct 13, asking the police to look into the practices of the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) following publication of a critical article in Swedish in Black Spot Project.

The Sept 30 story raised questions over scholarships for Thai military officers included in an agreement between FMV and Thailand for the purchase Gripen JAS 39 jets, alleging that the stipends were tantamount to bribery.

FMV and the Royal Thai Air Force signed the first contract with for six Saab-manufactured jets in 2008 and second contract in 2010 for an additional six planes. The deal also included training scholarships for 37 Thai officers.

FMV, a civilian agency under the Swedish Defence Ministry, was Thailand's contract partner.

SPAS president Anna Ek said in a statement that the free-education scheme could be considered a bribe and urged investigators to shed light on the issue.

She said in an email to the Bangkok Post that a copy of the police complaint also was sent to the Swedish Prosecution Authority.

"The reason why we filed a police report is that they investigate the issue and then hand over the case to corresponding legal authorities when done,'' said Ms Ek.

The article, which spurred the NGO to act, alleged that the Swedish firm did not disclose the scholarship deals to the public. The SPAS president said it was revealed by whistleblowers.

"It is clear to us that this case must be investigated by the legal authorities. Should the investigation find evidence of corruption, the responsible persons have to face the corresponding legal charges,'' said Ms Ek.

SPAS is a peace-advocacy organisation set up in 1883. Its website says it is the largest peace organisation in the country.

FMV did not respond to queries sent via email by the Bangkok Post.

The total price tag for the 12 multi-role Gripen fighters was 34.4 billion baht. The budget was approved by the government in 2007. The procurement deal also covered training programmes for Thai pilots and spare-parts packages.

The Gripens replaced long-used F5 jets and now are one of the main combat aircraft used by the air force, in addition to F16 fighters.

The first batch of six fighters was delivered to Thailand in 2011 and the second arrived in 2013. All were deployed at Wing 7 in Surat Thani province.

The project came under fire in 2007 shortly after the budget was approved with critics alleging the price had been inflated. The air force denied the charges, saying the deal was fairly priced after thorough study.


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